A lot of distinguished people come through Aspen and the valley. Some to play. Some to misbehave. Some to raise big money, throw a party or celebrate a cause. Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has tapped in and was back again for a second time in less than a month, raising millions of dollars. We need the Dalai Lama to revisit us and remind all of us what’s important in life.
In 2008, the Dalai Lama came to Aspen with a simple message urging compassion. Among other things, the Dalai Lama suggested that being compassionate and practicing compassion is actually good for the body and soul. With all due respect, that’s obvious, but I suppose it needs to be said out loud.
This message represents the distillation of mind that comes with long hours of contemplation and meditation. The Dalai Lama already has done all the heavy lifting for us. He refined the message to one word, “compassion,” and all we have to do is practice.
“According to science, [practicing compassion] makes the body better and the immune system stronger. So many people spend their money on medicine and sleeping pills. People that have compassion don’t need these,” he said in a lecture in Aspen.
So the Ambien, the Zoloft, the purple and blue pills, the scotch, the white wine, the coffee, the weed, tinctures, powders and preparations can all be replaced with compassion? This is going to take us some time.
Wouldn’t it be cool if the Dalai Lama’s message got equal billing on TV? The ad warning, “possible side-effects include stomach bleeding, lightheadedness, heart palpitations, suicidal tendencies, and, on rare occasions, dryness of mouth,” could be followed by four hours of compassionate silence with a whispered warning at the end: “Side-effects of compassion include peace on earth, the end of poverty, a good night’s sleep and spiritual enlightenment.”
That’s not going to happen any time soon, but I’m sure glad the message is getting out. My mom took me to church when I was a kid. And through my trainings and teachings and ministrations, I learned a lot. But I have to admit that I was often let down by the actual effect of those words on some of my co-worshippers once the services wrapped up.
Believe it or not, some people, even some in my own family, did not act with the love and compassion they were just entreated to practice in that house of worship. This might shock you, but some people bathe in the glow of God’s word and go right back to being shabby without a second thought.
I don’t mind the rules of the religious road, but if we are not all going to go by them, it makes it hard. When the guys in the coned hats, the shawls and the vestments are not upstanding, it’s even worse.
The rules of the spiritual road often seem simpler when they have one-word names like, “compassion,” “love” and “unity.” You can contemplate the meaning of those words for days and never get caught up in collection baskets, post-life promises and pompous posturings.
My spiritual quest goes on. I’m going to carry that torch of compassion around for a while and see where the light shines. It’s going to try to slip back in my mind when that dump truck tailgates me at 70 mph, or when things don’t go my way or I’m tired and cranky. But I’m going to try to shove compassion back into the front seat, instead of blowing my stack, which, in some instances, is exactly what I’d like to do.
Steve Skinner promises to tremble his lid before flipping it. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org